Monday, July 30, 2007

Home Sweet Home!


For those of you still out there in the audience, at long last I am back home! The Wilsonizer is officially off of hiatus and fully active once more. Thanks for staying dedicated to this site, and if you happen to land here when you clicked on the "next blog " option, stick around, plenty o' good stuff to follow!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Still Bloggin'

My new post is standing tall here at the Elephant Bar. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Visit to the Grindhouse









I took the opportunity to watch Grindhouse the other day; I absolutely loved it, but I am not surprised at all that it flopped hard in America.

Grindhouse is a veritable concept movie, an homage to a style of film making and viewing experience of the so called grindhouses of inner city 1970s fame. Two movies in one, they are unified by faux trailers (prevues) for similar movies (my favorite was Eli Roth's Thanksgiving horror movie), as well as a few ancillary characters who appear in both films.
Why did it bomb? Many reasons have been cited, including the film's length, its somewhat lurid subject material, as well as the arguably sub-par plotlines and over-the-top violence of both films.

I think the film bombed because it was too smart for its own good.

Most people under the age of 45 neither remember nor appreciate the raunch cinema of the '70s, and some of the window dressing elements of this film (ie the missing reels, the trailers, the grainy film appearance, et al) went unnoticed, unappreciated, or actually distracted too much from the viewing experience.

The movie bombed hard when it opened, and plummeted out of the top ten like no one's business. There are probably some unhappy campers in the Weinstein camp, and no doubt people will think about producing another Shrek chapter or Pirate sequel before they experiment (and invest) in something like this again.

But my guess is this movie will sell well as a DVD. There are undoubtably many additional scenes (like the reels missing from the actual films!), and addtional features that will make this movie a must add to any collection.

The first feature, Planet Terror, is a standard zombie plague flick. The effects and action are cartoonish and excessive, but true to form, this movie replicates the myriad of terrible horror movies that dominated the 70s and early 80s (c.f. My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday to you, Basket Case, Evil Dead, et al, if you can even find any of them on DVD), and does so with a wink at the audience. Terror's biggest weakness is that the Zombie genre was, er, resurrected a few years back with films like 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, and the like. So Grindhouse opened up with a comical shockfest that most filmgoing audiences had already been exposed to.

I still liked it, and hopefully an entrepeneur will open a Bone Shack franchise in my neck of the woods some day soon.

The second movie-within-a-movie, Death Proof, is on far more solid ground as a unique, stand alone film. A revival of the muscle car genre of the 1970s, this thriller is Quentin Tarantino's contribution to Grindhouse. Death Proof is replete with all the trademark Tarantino banter and pop culture references, and bad-ass MOPAR V8's wreaking havoc on winding roads.

Quentin Tarantino paces the film spectacularly, introducing viewers to a quartet of fun-loving Austin women who happen upon Stuntman Mike (played by the phenomenal Kurt Russell) in a bar. The first act frames the calm, twisted Stuntman character, who drives a "Death Proof" (for the driver anyway) Chevy Nova SS. Mike charms the ladies at first but seals their fate on the dark open road. . .

The film then flashes forward to a new quartet of lovely women, hollywood types this time who are in Tennessee to film a low budget film. Two of these are stuntwomen, and are steeped in the lore of classic seventies films. They talk about iconic yet obscure films from the 1970's like Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry and Vanishing Point, and establish the fact that they are a tough, devil-may-care crew. On a whim they decide to test drive a 1970 Dodge Challenger (a dead ringer for the Vanishing Point car) on Tennessee back roads. And once again Stuntman Mike comes into the picture, driving a black 69 Charger R/T; this time, however, he gets a little more than he bargained for. . .

If Tarantino films were books, they would be appreciated as much for their footnote references to nearly lost pop culture treasures as for the content themselves. Have you seen Vanishing Point lately? Not many people have. At one point in the film Stuntman Mike laments the advent of CGI, and appears nostalgic for the time when, if a filmaker wanted a car to crash, he had to put a stuntman in it. There is little doubt that Tarantino's stuntmen earned their pay with the last reel of this film.

It would not be surprising to see this movie elevated to cult classic status after a little while, either. Grindhouse took a chance and tried to create an artistic experience from schlock material. The movie failed to make coin, but the spectacle is worth watching.

Post Script. I ordered Vanishing Point and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (the Turbocharger edition) on Amazon the other day, so the Grind house is alive and well in Afghanistan!






Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Daily Kos Strays Off Message (Again!)

Markos, what's up?

Yet another Daily Kos diarist strays into anti-semitic territory with a post critical of the Israel lobby in the United States entitled Portrait of a Great Taboo: The Power of the Israel Lobby in the United States ; the diarist links to video posted on the Vanguard News Network, a neo-nazi white supremacist site, whose motto is purported to be "No Jews. Just Right".

Let's see how long this tripe stays posted.

Interestingly enough, a previous post by this Kos diarist, Sabbah, included an illustration by Carlos Latuff, an artist whose work was featured in and earned a second place finish (and $4000.00) in Iran's holocast denial cartoon contest.

Such are the perils of providing so much access to such a broad array of diarists on a given blog site; once you post something and it is out there, you can never, ever reel it back in.

Is Kos erecting a tent so big that Alex Linder can now find shelter within it? I don't think that was his intent when he launched DK back in the day.

Getting past the post's echo chamber commentary, which veers into anti-semitism at times (or as defenders at all costs of left leaning sites say, "harmless satire"), someone rebuked this seemingly anti-progressive train of thought far more effectively than I could:


American Jewish citizens have a right to express
their views without being charged with placing the interests of Israel ahead
of those of the United States. . .It is high time that the suggestion that
somehow Jews are especially disqualified from having a voice in the affairs of
whatever nation they belong to (lest they come to be a sinister cabal) was
banished from acceptable political discourse. By that I don't mean it
should become a criminal offence; I mean merely that it should be regarded and
roundly condemned by everyone of progressive democratic outlook for what it
is: at best, a disgraceful exercise in the operation of double standards; at
worst, anti-Semitism.


Well said. Now, let us see if any diarists come out on this site with a viewpoint that counters the illustrious Sabbah's, or at least arguesthat lying in bed with neo-nazis, fascists, white supremacists, and the Iranian Mullahs is a terrible vantage point from which to advance one's supposedly progressive views.

And the real acid test for Kos' influence in the coming election cycles will be whether progressive candidates believe that posting diaries on the site ties them to the anti - semitic crew that is beginning to post with greater regularity and enthusiasm there.

Vamos a ver.

UPDATE: The diarist changed his link to the recommended documentary; now his readers are no longer required to view a video posted by neo-nazis; they can view the exact same video (touted by neo-nazis as being aligned with their perverse viewpoint), posted by someone else. Great.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Straying Off Message

Blogs, political campaigns, and social movements often rest upon foundations of a unifying mindset, viewpoint, or message. It is the message that draws people to support whatever it is one purports to be, say, or do. So it is often times interesting, comical or even a bit disturbing to see any high profile individual or group veer off message, and away from the familiar territory they normally stake off.

Elizabeth Edwards ventured far afield recently when she publicly criticized a less financially endowed neighbor who is having problems adjusting to the 28,000 square foot Castillo de Edwards looming over his modest property:

Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, particularly recalls the time neighbor Monty Johnson brought out a gun while chasing workers investigating a right of way near his property. The Edwards family has yet to meet Johnson in person. Edwards views Johnson as a "rabid, rabid Republican" who refuses to clean up his "slummy" property just to spite her
family, whose lavish 28,000-square-foot estate is nearby on 102 wooded
acres.

Johnson, 55, acknowledges his Republican roots. But he takes offense to the suggestion he has purposefully left his property, including an old garage he leases for use as a car shop, in dilapidated
condition. Johnson said he has lived his entire life on the property, which he said his family purchased before the Great Depression. He said he's spent a lot of money to try and fix up the 42-acre tract. "I have to budget. I have to live within my means," Johnson said. "I don't have millions of dollars to fix the place."

"I thought he [Senator Edwards] was supposed to be for the poor people," Johnson said. "But does he ever socialize with any poor people? He doesn't speak to me."

Indeed, the Edwards campaign literature states they want to create opportunities in rural America. But those who live within driving distance to Research Triangle Park in metropolitan Raleigh can watch the erstwhile transformation of rural America right before your eyes, populism be damned. The Rhode Island - sized Edwards Estate is symptomatic of the change taking place in this part of the country, and many others as well. The once modest homes and wooded fields of sleepy rural communities are being replaced by subdivisions of $300,000.00 homes, stacked on top of one another; Targets and Super-Walmarts are overtaking the little country stores, and where once there were familes who lived on the same properties for generations there are now educated, monied intellectuals scorning the original inhabitants for their unenlightened demeanor and simple ways. Once the property taxes rise, families sell their valuable land to developers, and the problems of "slummy" rural America (the second of the Two Americas, actually) just go elsewhere.

The Progressive blog Daily Kos went egregiously off message a few days ago when one of its diarists posted an antisemitic screed illustrated by an obscene photo that juxtaposed the visage of Hitler upon that of a man of Jewish persuasion [the text and illustration were subsequently removed, and many people in the comments section laughably suggested a conservative plot to discredit the site). Anti-Semitism in any form, on a supposedly progressive web site? Kos did not bathe itself in glory with this posting, and overall it is is probably a strategically poor idea to alienate an influential segment of the American population, especially when you plan on transforming American society and Crashing the Gate, I would think.

Finally, Illinois Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama, whose campaign proposes to rid Washington of its culture of corruption, was recently photographed meeting in his (federal) office with key campaign advisors, a major faux pax that is not only representative of that which the freshman senator purports to be trying to change, but is technically illegal to boot. The meeting may have been innocuous, but the perception that endures is the Obama campaign is just more business as usual politics, and this is far from the squeaky clean image this candidate is marketing.

So, for your reading pleasure, a few interesting anecdotes of politicians, bloggers, and straphangers off message. The aforementioned examples are more than just idle coffee talk, though. These journeys away from the steady path of The Message make you wonder if the aberrant remark, posting or action is just a stray blip on the radar, or if the the message itself is truly genune at all.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hope, Rather than Despair




In an Easter litany of the world's suffering,
Pope Benedict XVI
lamented that "nothing
positive" is happening in Iraq and decried the unrest in Afghanistan and
bloodshed in Africa and Asia. . .


"Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and
instability," Benedict said. "In the
Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel
and the Palestinian Authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by
continual slaughter as the civil population flees."



The Pope's message was a somber one. And it is easy to be overwhelmed with despair when one ponders the burden of suffering, poverty, and hardship borne by so many people around the world today.


It takes work, courage perhaps, to see the world as it truly is and to still be filled with hope.


I spent this Easter far from home, away from my wife and children. I attended Easter Mass in a tent with a bunch of mostly strangers, all of whom were equally far from home this holiday season. I missed my family, the comforts of my house, and the bounty of my dinner table, which I have no doubt would have been a festive mess of colored easter eggs, spilled dye, candy, frosting and the like.


But away from home or not, I do not despair this Easter season.


It is easy to look at the many actions taken in the years since September 11 and count up the missteps and wrong turns. But we are where we are at this moment in time, one day after Easter Sunday, and there is no going back.


And where there is suffering, death, and yes, despair in Iraq and Afghanistan today, there is hope as well.


For every story emerging from these places detailing the reality of corruption, death, and failure, there are reasons to believe that all is not lost, and that the world is more than a Clean, Well Lighted Place.


There are people working in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide security, create jobs, enhance governance, open schools, and, in short, drive despair away.


Will any of this work? Who can really say?


But when I ponder the meaning of Easter, of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, I can look beyond the darkness and despair that fills the headlines of the world, and still be hopeful. And I believe that those refuse to give in to the nothingness and meaninglessness of despair, who would put a spade to the earth, turn the soil, and plant a forest one tree at a time, or take a hammer to wood and put a roof over a school in some part of the world that most people cannot even find on the map, are truly in tune with the spirit of the holiday we celebrated yesterday.


So a happy belated Easter, dear readers, from one who still looks for and hopes for the best in this world of ours.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

GWOT and Newspeak over at the EB

I am still alive, albeit cooling my heels far, far away from my comfortable study these days.

My new post is up over at the Elephant Bar, and in it I discuss the end of the Global War on Terror. Check it out, while you still remember what the GWOT is!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Military Medicine Morass



You medical people will have more lives to answer for in the other world than even we generals.

-Napoléon


The Walter Reed story continues to play out across the media, and the ramifications expanded over the last 48 hours. For those out of the loop, an explosive Washington post exposé revealed squalid conditions and a morass of bureaucratic problems at the Walter Reed Medical Center on February 18th.

The General in Charge of Walter Reed was relieved, and then the Secretary of the Army was fired, largely because of his tepid response to fixing the problems at the Hospital (ie don't put the general who just left six months ago in charge of the hospital, he's probably part of the problem!).

The President himself addressed the issue, and plans to start a bipartisan investigation to "i
nvestigate how this situation was allowed to happen, how it can be fixed, and how we can prevent it from happening again".

It is shameful that wounded American Soldiers were housed in such atrocious conditions, and that after five years of war that procedures could not have been streamlined to free at least one group of people, the wounded, from the life-sucking procedural bureacracy that comprises the military's inner workings.

There are some silver clouds here though, meager though they may be. First of all, the military healthcare system is going to come under intense scrutiny, especially as it applies to the care of wounded Soldiers. The nerve-wracking process that casualties must go through to receive disability will likely be a casualty itself of this scandal as well; perhaps actuaries will play a lesser role in the process of determining disability payments, and future wounded Soldiers will move more quickly to their medical boards as well.

Secretary Gates set a good, stern example for his enormous defense bureaucracy, too. The SecDef held senior leaders accountable, and you can bet that his cannon shot into the chests of the former Army Secretary and hospital commander will be heard loud and clear across the ranks; no doubt there are closets being cleaned as these words go to print.

The War and the Media: Yet Another Look!

My new post is up over at the Elephant Bar. I talked a little about the new media and its effectivess in conveying information about what is going on in Iraq:

If one really wants to have an idea of what's going on in the war, scanning through some of the many excellent bloggers and regional media accounts is now the most effective way to get information (short of donning a uniform and going there yourself, of course!).

My guess is that the example of the old vs new media war coverage is intersubjective, too; that is, potential readers with interests other things, such as business, technology, and the like are probably relying more and more on new media outlets to gather and share information on their favorite topics.

Check out the whole thing here!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Confronting Fascism, Then and Now




Harrison over at Possum Bistro has an excellent post about the West's ability (or lack thereof) to confront Islamic extremism, comparing our fight today to Europe's fight against the rise of the Third Reich following World War I:



In 1939, Allied propaganda sought to demonise the
Germans as savage brutes obsessed with the spoils of reckless military
adventurism - a dominant theme that stuck with Prussia in its wars with
Austria-Hungary and France, and post-Bismarck Germany in 1914 - who threatened
to impose an anti-Semitic, xenophobic, anti-democratic, totalitarian,
militaristic and intolerant kultur on all of Europe - and possibly the world:
the Hitlerian signature seared into the consciousness of all peoples, the Third
Reich's imprint on civilisation.

Our oldest enemies have been resurrected, and
like Hitler, they have thrown down the gauntlet - a blatant challenge to our
culture and existence that we ignore at our peril. Until we are willing to state
what our principles are, and
stick to them, we will always be one step behind our
adversaries.

Read the whole thing.


I also suggest reading Terror and Liberalism, which ties into the themes of this post very well.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Effectiveness of Provincial Reconstruction Teams




Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) were established early on in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq. The
purpose of these PRTs is to:

Provide both improved security and to facilitate reconstruction and economic development throughout the country. The United States and the international community envision the PRTs as transitional structures[;] they are established to support the elected [host nation] government.

In Iraq, the new strategy, beyond increasing troops, entails transforming the structure of the PRT to a State Department - led, civil/military endeavor:

The most important difference between the original PRT model and the Embedded PRTs is that instead of it being lead and comprised of primarily military personnel, the team leader will be a State Department official and the deputy team leader will be a senior military commander. Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) will work alongside PRTs providing "security, life support and operations." In a soon to be published USIP report, the operational concept, command and control, and funding for Embedded PRTs is clearly outlined.


It would be interesting to see what the actual PRT metrics are for both IRAQ and Afghanistan; that is, what is the causal link between the PRTs and economic growth, stability, etc.

It would seem that if a PRT (or anything for that matter) drastically increases the economic activity in a certain area, that the people, having discretionary income and stability, would refrain from and resist violence/extremism.

Anyone who can find official documents referencing the effects of the PRTs, please link them in the comments section of this post.

Convergence of Government Effort

From my Post over at the Elephant Bar:

American foreign policy challenges in the coming decades are more often than not going to require action in complex situations. The United States will continue to find itself involved in developing countries, where requirements of advancing regional cooperation, economic development, and deterring or neutralizing threats intersect, and thus require a multifaceted response; there will be more Djibouti deployments than DESERT STORMS in the coming years. Governmental agencies will be required to work side by side in organizations comprised of various law and humanitarian bureaus, and perhaps controlled by uniformed military personnel. On the ground, infantry company commanders will find themselves working together with FBI and USAID personnel more often than with direct support artillery batteries.
Read the whole thing here!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Interesting Developments in Anbar

Wretchard over at the Belmont Club has a terrific post on new developments over in Iraq, potential emerging capabilities in the war, and the American political system's inability to keep pace with a dynamic environment. A sample:

[A]pparently the Anbar tribes have quit "playing both sides" and come down on the side of the US. What does that suggest about who tribes think is going to win? And why do they think that? Another commenter at Small Wars Council shrewdly understands, from the apparent progress in Anbar, that the correct interpretation of "changing the rules of engagement" doesn't mean "taking the gloves off" but increasing the degrees of freedom that the commanders in the field are allowed to exercise. . .

[R]eturning to the subject of "degrees of freedom" and walnut-sized brain responses, one wonders at how useful it is to keep seeing the world through the prism of the Vietnam War. Clearly for many of the Democrats in Congress who have just supported a nonbinding resolution aimed at "bringing the boys home", 2007 is 1967. One wonders whether for certain people every year will be always be 1967. However that may be, as much time has elapsed from 1967 till today as between the time Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album was released and the end of the Silent Movie era.

A great post that raises many questions. Check it out!

Congress, Then and Now

From today's Novak column:

[Congressman Jack Murtha] could not keep quiet the secret Democratic strategy that he had forged for the promised "second step" against President Bush's Iraq policy (after the "first step" of a nonbinding resolution of disapproval). In an interview last Thursday with the antiwar Web site MoveCongress.org, he revealed plans to put conditions on funding of U.S. troops. His message: I am running this show.

Murtha has shaped party policy that would cripple Bush's Iraq troop surge by placing conditions on funding. That represents the most daring congressional attempt to micromanage ongoing armed hostilities since the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War challenged President Abraham Lincoln.


The Joint Committee on Conduct of the War was established in 1861, and operated through 1865. Interestingly enough, the stated purpose of the committee during that time was


a way for the legislative branch to check and monitor executive direction of the war. There were a number of different ways in which the committee tried to control President Lincolns (sic) direction of military affairs. In some cases, the committee supplied popular daily newspapers with secret testimony to sway public opinion in its direction. Individual committee members often made speeches before the House or Senate to advance the committees (sic) point of view. Finally, through the release of its official reports, the committee hoped to sway public opinion in favor of the Republican war program. In this latter regard, the committees (sic) most notable successes were in the area of war-time propaganda, particularly with the publication of its reports on the treatment of Union prisoners of war and the Fort Pillow massacre. Intended to portray the Southern as backward and benighted, these reports were important morale building tools.


Overall, when gauging the effectiveness of the committee during the Civil War, historian Bruce Tap wrote

"[B]ecause of its collective ignorance of military science and preference for the heroic saber charge, "the committee tended to reinforce the unrealistic and simplistic notions of warfare that prevailed in the popular mind."


President Harry Truman ran a committee similar in purpose during the Second World War when he served in Congress; rather than question tactics or commanders in the field, the Truman Committee, as it came to be called, identified ways to make the management of war materiel and resources more effective, effectively transition industry onto a war footing, and eliminate government fraud, waste and abuse. The Truman Committee is credited with saving billions of dollars, and many believe it set the foundation for the United States to triumph during the war.

When people look at the actions taken in Congress today, it is easy to begin wondering where this legislative body will ultimately reside in the annals of American history. Will the long debate on nonbinding resolutions, improbable tactical solutions, and plans to end a conflict not through debate, but by clamping the purse strings on planned troop deployments, find itself referenced in the same paragraphs of the Truman Committee? Or will the actions heretofore taken consign this Congress to be referred to along with their well meaning, inept, obstructionist counterparts during the American Civil War?

Time will tell.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wilsonizer Saddles Up to the Elephant Bar

I am an occasional poster over at the Elephant Bar blog; here is my first, and hopefully not last, post at that distinguished establishment. Enjoy!

Sequels: The Revenge!



UPDATE: I am not done cleaning out my closet; here is some more junk, updated and highlighted in red!

There have been many loose ends over the past few months; news that was commented upon, stories that were told, and observations that made that, once brought up, were put aside due to the exigencies of the moment. In the interest of closure, here are some updates:


1. Getting Smart on Alternative Energy: I posted on this topic last year, and time has not made this issue any less relevant. A friend introduced me to Zap Cars, which are compact, completely electric automobiles. A typical Zap car costs about 10K, pretty cheap! They have a short range and top speeds of about 40 MPH, so long trips are out of the picture. But for those with short commutes to work, what better way to stick it to Chavez and his ilk than to jet back and forth in an electric car? Maybe next summer I will buy a Xebra Pickup, and park the Jeep! Update: reader Taryn commented: If you're interested in a Zap electric Sedan or Pk- come take a test drive! I am in Glendale California at EnVironmental Motors. Check it out: EnVironmentalMotors.com

2. John Edwards' Two Americas: There were two America's for John Edwards this winter: The one he lived in, and the one he blogged in. Senator Edwards ended up receiving receiving flak for both of them. The Edwards Campaign hired two liberal bloggers for its online site, but failed to at a minimum Google either of them to check out past materials, which were expletive ridden and insulting to Catholics (or as some defenders claimed, "witty satire"). After some handwringing, Edwards opted to keep both bloggers on the staff, but they subsequently resigned days later The Edwards campaign drives on however, in all its poor-subject verb-agreement glory (it should read "Billions Have Been Squandered, no??). Meanwhile, the Senator's new 28,000 square foot home, a veritable Biltmore East, is nearing completion. The Senator took some good natured HEAT rounds for running a populist campaign on the one hand, and building a guilded age, Rhode Island-sized estate on the other. Such is life. Even if Senator Edwards fails to win the Presidency, at least all will find solace in the fact that he and his family will suffer little in the aftermath.

3. Britney Spears/Anna Nicole/Astro-Chick: Not too much new on either of these three critical fronts; Dear readers be assured, if news emerges on these stories, you will find riveting analysis right here! All in all, ought-seven is turning into a bizarre year for celebrities. Update: Lisa Nowak, the (allegedly) psychotic diaper wearing scorned astro-woman, has been released from jail, fitted with a small tracking device. Hopefully she is medicated enough to resist the urge to become the Spirit of Vengeance once again, riding like hell across America. . . which brings me to more surprising celebrity news: the Ghost Rider had a good opening weekend. What a surprise, I would have bet on that movie tanking. . . and according to a non-linked story on Drudge, "Britney Spears made a late-night dash to hospital after cutting off all her hair, a newspaper claims on Monday, and she begged medical staff: 'Help me'". . . And the body of the late Anna Nicle Smith is ready for viewing. . . And there is more evidence that Britney is not well . . .

Enough Wilsonizer Celebrity news, until the spring thaw, one would hope. . .


4. Nonbinding Morass: I quasi-liveblogged the Congressional nonbinding resolution on Iraq (in that I wrote the post and updates to it throughout the day), yet slept through the follow on failure of a similar motion in the Senate. Now that the resolution has passed/failed:

a. David Broder predicts a backlash against the harshest war critics, and a resurgence of President Bush?!

b. The Victory Caucus continues to gain momentum.

c. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says "A vote on Iraq will come"; Senator Hillary Clinton has now stated that troops should start within 90 days, and is introducing legislation to do as much; she further promised to end the war when she becomes president, if Bush fails to do so. Great.

d. Meanwhile despite the posturing, punditry and debate, life in Iraq, and the war, continue. And continue some more. . .


Hope you enjoyed the sequels.


And to finish this thread, the latest bigfoot sighting here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Britney Spears: Ranger Candidate? ? ?

Why in the world did she do this???

Perhaps she is unhinged; divorce can be stressful, I've been told.

Perhaps there is another reason for the change in Ms. Spears' sudden, drastic change in appearance. Let us advance a theory here.

Maybe she is heading here, a place they say is "not for the weak or fainthearted". Pop princess or not, Britney is fairly tough and may have what it takes; after all, she did kiss Madonna once.

If that's the case, then all I have to say is "Good haircut, Ranger!"

Friday, February 16, 2007

Lieberman, Nonbinding

Sen Lieberman on the floor FEB 5:

Cynics may say this kind of thing happens all of the time in Congress. In this case, however, they are wrong. If [the nonbinding resolution opposing the troop surge] passed, this resolution would be unique in American legislative history. I contacted the Library of Congress on this question last week and was told that, never before, when American soldiers have been in harm’s way, fighting and dying in a conflict that Congress had voted to authorize, has Congress turned around and passed a resolution like this, disapproving of a particular battlefield strategy.

War and Military Readiness


Westhawk posted about an article today in which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace spoke about military readiness. In the article, Gen. Pace told the Senate Armed Services Committee that
risks have increased because U.S. forces are not training for the full range of operations that may confront them. Pace said the U.S. military needs to be ready to counter a conventional enemy in a conventional war, such as could break out on the Korean Peninsula, Pace said. “We did not expect in 2001 to have to conduct conventional operations in Afghanistan, but we did,” he said. “There are other countries out there that are gaining (military) capacity.”

American forces have such a short turnaround time before heading back to places like Iraq and Afghanistan that some aspects of their training for these higher ends of war are being shorted, Pace said. For example, combined arms training is being purposely shorted to concentrate on aspects of war that soldiers will need in Iraq, he said.


This testimony is interesting, although most of General Pace's points can be countered rather effectively. Here are some salient counterpoints:

U.S. forces are not training for the full range of operations . . . but United States forces are conducting a broad range of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. In Afghanistan and Iraq, military units have conducted several conventional operations at the task force level, often employing joint assets and working combined, with allied or partner nation forces. American forces are also involved in humanitarian operations in both theaters as well. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan are key non-kinetic enablers on the battlefield. And Special Operations Forces are honed in the full range of their missions more than any other time in their history.

While units may not be rotating to train at the national readiness centers in Fort Irwin, Fort Polk, and the like with the frequency they did prior to 9/11, the experience that Soldiers and Units have gained on the battlefield is immeasurably more valuable than ten days in either of these places.

What conventional military could America face in the coming days that is more seasoned than the United States' forces are at this moment? The senior commanders in the Army and Marines planned and executed a conventional invasion in Iraq, and have deployed to combat numerous times in both Iraq and Afghanistan; most junior officers, NCOs, and Soldiers have done the same.

the U.S. military needs to be ready to counter a conventional enemy in a conventional war. . . General Pace has a point when he says that American ground forces are stretched thin due to requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, there is excess, untapped capacity in the Navy and the Air Force, which play only an ancillary role in both theaters of combat; the capabilities of these two services are a credible deterrent to conventional threats, and provide a potent capability to engage belligerent nation states militarily should the need arise. Also, at any given time, there are Army and Marine Ground units in the United States that could react in short order to an emerging threat. These units may have just completed a combat tour in either theater, but there is a reason soldiers take oaths when they enlist.

inability to conduct peacekeeping operations is impeding foreign policy objectives. . . The United States military continues to conduct humanitarian activities around the world, and remains engaged in all theaters. American Special Forces soldiers and Marines conduct foreign internal defense operations in Colombia, which aid the Colombian government's ability to combat the FARC narcoterrorists who have wreaked havoc in the countryside for over three decades. American Soldiers continue to deploy and conduct humanitarian and stability operations in the Phillippines. There is also a robust military presence in the Horn of Africa as well. Recently, the United States Navy projected power into the Persian Gulf with a Carrier Group in light of the continuing standoff with Iran. The arsenal is far from emptied due to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the senior uniformed service member, the Chairman must provide sound military guidance to the President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense. While General Pace may see shortfalls in operational capability, the military would be better served if the Chairman bolstered the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan with his testimony, rather than fret about low probability hypotheticals.

The schwerpunkt of military operations is in these two theaters; failure in either one endangers longstanding alliances, and global stability itself. THAT is what the uniformed and civilian members of our government should be focused upon at this very moment.





The Iraq War - in Congress, in the Streets, and Elsewhere


From the AP:

WASHINGTON - Democrats pushed a measure critical of President Bush's Iraq policy to the brink of House passage on Friday, the culmination of an extraordinary four-day debate over a war that has killed more than 3,100 U.S. troops. There was no doubt about the outcome of the vote, with nearly all Democrats in favor and as many as two dozen or so Republicans expected to break ranks. Passage would set the stage for a test vote Saturday in the Senate, where Republicans have said they intend to block consideration of the measure unless Democrats grant equal treatment to an alternative measure that opposes cutting funds for the troops."I will do everything in my power to ensure the House resolution dies an inglorious death in the Senate," said Sen. Lindsey Graham), R-S.C.The House measure disapproves of Bush's decision to increase troop strength, and commits Congress to "support and protect" the troops.

On top of that, movecongress.org recently wrote that Congressman Murtha

will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president’s foreign and national security policy [emph added]. (Note, this precise wording was subsequently removed from the site, wisely, but a bit too slowly!)

Meanwhile in Iraq, The Multinational Force Headquarters released this report of recent actions:

Militarily, the first additional Iraqi forces and the first of five additional U.S. brigades have arrived in Baghdad and are conducting operations. General Petraeus is adamant that to win this conflict we have to protect the population. Consequently, Iraqi army, Iraqi police, and coalition forces will actually live together in joint security stations throughout Baghdad in order to be closer to the Iraqi people that they are protecting. The additional forces will also enable us to create more transition teams to assist, teach, mentor and coach the Iraqi security forces. There will be both an increase in the number and size of the teams, and they will reach down to the lower-level units within the Iraqi army and police units.

The non-military aspects of the plan have been strengthened as well. On February 8th, the Council

of Representatives approved a new Iraqi budget that includes $10 billion for economic development programs such as refurbishing state-owned enterprises and assisting small businesses through microfinancing. This week the first state- owned enterprise won a competitive U.S. government procurement bid for $44 million to provide the new Iraqi army uniforms.

While there is cause for optimism, there are several reasons why -- need to be patient with this new strategy [Emph added]..

In and around Baghdad, Iraq the Model reports:

On the streets, checkpoints and roadblocks are becoming increasingly serious and strict in doing their job; soldiers and policemen are sparing no vehicles or convoys from searching and I personally saw a case yesterday where an ambulance driver tried to rush his vehicle through a checkpoint but the soldiers ordered him to stop and let him pass only after they checked the inside of the vehicle finding only a civilian medical emergency.
Strict checkpoints always mean slow traffic and inconvenient delays for Baghdadis but this downside is welcome when these security measures make the streets safer.

Despite the traffic jams and though this is the largest deployment for troops in the capital, daily life and civilian activity-contrary to what was expected-still continues at a rather normal level, unlike previous crackdowns where life came to near paralysis.

America’s military and political efforts in Iraq have clearly shifted since the beginning of the year, and although the increase in troops on the ground are a key component of the way this war is being waged, they are by no means the sole change that has occurred in the campaign.

It is regrettable that while many Americans find themselves at “the operator level” in a political war and executing a strategy that intends to bring the war to a positive outcome, the U.S. Congress is taking actions that, no matter what the outcome, will have no positive effect on the troops in the field, or make their job any easier.

In fact, one can expect additional legislation to be proposed after this resolution that further limits the flexibility and the capacity of the Commanders and Soldiers fighting in Iraq. So, while

Sunni insurgents and other groups wage the “war of a thousand cuts” in the streets of Iraq, certain members of Congress continue fighting their own war of attrition in the Capitol.

UPDATE: It passed, 246-182. You can check how your Representative voted here.

UPDATE 2: COPPERHEADS!

The Democrats' next move will to be to craft legislation that blocks funding, or places so many restrictions on Soldiers deploying to Combat that the DOD will be unable to field units:

Rep. Jack Murtha, one of the most vocal congressional opponents of the war in Iraq, is vowing to block President Bush’s plan to send

another 21,500 U.S. combat troops to Iraq in the upcoming debate over defense spending. “We’re gonna stop this surge,” the Pennsylvania Democrat declared in an interview posted on the Web site MoveCongress.org.

On Thursday, Pelosi pulled together a small group of reporters from the nation's biggest newspapers to essentially endorse the Murtha strategy.

Stepping up his campaign against the White House, Murtha, chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, told Tom Andrews, a former congressman-turned-activist, in the online interview that he would attach so many conditions to an upcoming spending bill for Iraq that the Pentagon would not be able to find enough troops to carry out the president’s “surge” plan.

Again, commanders in the field are ALREADY EXECUTING a strategy based on the employment of additional forces, many of whom are already in place. It is doubtful that the framers of the Constitution believed the separation of powers would ever be used to undermine Commanders and Soldiers in the midst of a war.

It is critical for the administration to ensure that Legislation is not passed making it impossible to prosecute the war (i.e. the Murtha plan); such legislation would be reprehensible, and today's Democrats would grow ever more similar to the so called Copperhead Democrats of the Civil War:

They called themselves Peace Democrats; their opponents called them Copperheads because some wore copper pennies as identifying badges. As was true of the Democratic party as a whole, the influence of Peace Democrats varied with the fortunes of war. When things were going badly for the Union on the battlefield, larger numbers of people were willing to entertain the notion of making peace with the Confederacy. When things were going well, Peace Democrats could more easily be dismissed as defeatists. But no matter how the[American Civil War] progressed, Peace Democrats constantly had to defend themselves against charges of disloyalty. Revelations that a few had ties with secret organizations such as the Knights of the Golden Circle helped smear the rest.

The most prominent Copperhead leader was Clement L. Valladigham of Ohio, who headed the secret antiwar organization known as the Sons of Liberty. At the Democratic convention of 1864, where the influence of Peace Democrats reached its high point, Vallandigham persuaded the party to adopt a platform branding the war a failure, and some extreme Copperheads plotted armed uprisings. . .

With the conclusion of the war in 1865 the Peace Democrats were thoroughly discredited. Most Northerners believed, not without reason, that Peace Democrats had prolonged war by encouraging the South to continue fighting in the hope that the North would abandon the struggle.

While the war has gone far from well, drafting legislation that makes failure inevitable, yet does not end the war outright, and immediately remove Soldiers from harm's way, is reprehensible. Such actions are based on passion and partisanship. America is a democracy, not an angry mob.

The Copperheads, in their time, seemed aligned with the will of the people; had their vision of the future prevailed, America's fate over the last two centuries would have been drastically different. Hopefully, those in government, the media, and in conversation around the country who possess "the long view" will prevail in the coming debates over the war, and ensure that America is not consigned to short sighted and destructive isolationism.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Obama Down Under

I wrote about Senator Barack H. Obama's announcement of a Presidential run yesterday.
This morning it seems that his campaign ran afoul of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who says that Obama's proposals for withdrawing from Iraq will destabilize the region:

I think that [Obama's announcement of a deadline for removing all troops from Iraq] will just encourage those who want to completely destabilize and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and a victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for an Obama victory," Howard said on Nine Network television."If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats."


Senator Obama's campaign staffers were quick to fire back at Howard in surprisingly harsh terms:

[Obama Spokesman] Gibbs went on to say that Howard was not in a position to be overly critical." If Prime Minister Howard truly believes what he says, perhaps his country should find its way to contribute more than just 1,400 troops so some American troops can come home," he said. "It's easy to talk tough when it's not your country or your troops making the sacrifices."

Let us see how long before someone from the Obama campaign speaks out to "qualify" those remarks. The United States is fortunate to have any allied support in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, and none of the allied forces, let alone Australia, should be disparaged for the sake of domestic American politics. Australia has been a stalwart ally for decades, and the nation also continues to provide combat forces in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM as well. The Obama campaign should have sidestepped Howard's criticism, instead of questioning the level of sacrifice of the Australian military and her people.

In most military operations America finds itself involved in, our military inevitably provides a lion's share of the forces; (SEE: Haiti, JUST CAUSE, DESERT STORM, WWII, KOREA, VIETNAM, OEF/OIF, et al); criiticicizing an ally's contribution to war when a politician insults your worldview reflects ia certain ignorance of how things work outside of Chicago.

Obama's insult was a misstep, the likes of which can sink a campaign quick in primary season, when people start paying attention to everything said.

UPDATE: Belmont Club has a great analysis of the Obama/Howard Row, a large part of which covers the troops per capita angle, which I had not given much thought about. Wretchard's conclusions:

I think this dust-up has the potential to play in very unpredictable ways. First, many Americans will resent commentary by any foreign leader on a US Presidential campaign. Captain Ed is already of that view and in fairness, he would probably feel the same way if the commentator were Jacques Chirac or Osama Bin Laden. On the other hand, many Australians, including people who might be John Howard's domestic political opponents, will probably say "who the hell does Barack Hussein Obama think he is?" Many Australians are acutely aware of the commitments by this small nation, in population terms, not only in Afghanistan, but in Fiji, East Timor, Afghanistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. If there is one country in the world Barack Obama ought not to have twitted about not pulling its own weight, it would be Australia.

How things go from here depend to some extent, on how well Howard and Obama handle the follow-up events.


Also, some commentary from further left on the political spectrum concerning this subject:

I'm sure the right wingers will have their panties in a bunch tomorrow about "insulting a valued ally." We'll probably have a few days of "is Obama bigoted against Australians".

To the right wing noise machine, no sin is as great as fighting back against a slur. If they don't punish that, then OMFG, everyone will do it.

But hopefully people will take note. Talk smack against Barack, he'll talk it right back.

Hey, that's pretty good. Somebody give me a beat!



WAPO Answers for Arkin

Deborah Howell, the Washington Post's ombudsman, had these words to say concerning William Arkin's inflammatory online column on American Soldiers a few weeks back:

Arkin's column did not meet Post standards, but then, newspaper editing isn't perfect, either. But "mercenary" [the term Arkin used as he referred to the all volunteer American military] surely is live ammo; such an incendiary word should have popped out in flames to Post editors. And it is good editing that should prevail when a report carries The Post's banner.

In Arkins' most recent post, on February 6th, the Post's blogger indicated that he may take a short hiatus after all the controversy his blog posting caused:

I'm a bit surprised that many of the critics, even the O'Reilly's of the world, think that I AM the Washington Post, that is, that the journalism in the Post is inseparable from the opinion. Maybe these critics are just posturing to attack the newspaper; maybe they truly don't get it; maybe they really wish for or foresee the demise of the mainstream news media. The Post, on the other hand, has made a major commitment to adjust itself to this new, cacophonous, very imperfect new medium, demonstrating that it is not going to die a carbon death while the digital era advances. Because it is the Washington Post, I know that my words carry more weight, and that gives me an added responsibility: I not only have to be true to myself and what I believe and adhere to the facts, but I also have to be mindful of the power of the pen. In that spirit, I'll give myself and my readers a break.

Read the whole ombudsman article, it is worthwhile, as the folks at Powerline stated, for it shows the different editorial processes found at the online and "paper" versions of the Post; my guess is the uproar over William Arkin publishing a column that "satirically" denigrates the United States Military is going to generate some more checks and balances on the Post's digital undertakings.

It is interesting to note that in the last week there have been two minor flaps involving bloggers: Arkin, of course, and then the two bloggers who signed on as hired guns in the Edwards campaign. In both cases, the controversy derived from the use of perjorative language, which in both cases once again was dismissed as satire that the unenlightened readers took literally, in their ignorance.

Satire
is a useful literary device, but it makes a poor excuse for vulgar language , and a thin, ratty veil for hate speech. It is tiresome to see satire constantly invoked when defending mediocre writers.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Obama and Lincoln




From the AP:

Barack Obama announced his bid for president Saturday, a black man evoking Abraham Lincoln's ability to unite a nation and a Democrat portraying himself as a fresh face capable of leading a new generation.

I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change," Obama said to some of the loudest applause of his 20-minute speech.

He tied his announcement to the legacy of Lincoln, announcing from the building where the future 16th president served in the state Legislature.

"We can build a more hopeful America. And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a house divided to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America," Obama said.

Curiously, at the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln's situation is more similar to the current beleaguered Commander in Chief than the upstart Freshman Senator from Illinois. Here is a speech President Lincoln gave to an Ohio Regiment returning from the battlefield in 1864:
I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the service you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country. I almost always feel inclined, when I happen to say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them in a few brief remarks the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children's children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright--not only for one, but for two or three years. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.
This tone, one could argue, is more reminiscent of speeches President Bush has given over the past several years, since the United States commenced OEF/OIF.
Interestingly enough, The language the Democratic Presidential candidates now use as they announce the start of their campaigns is actually more in line with their party in 1864 than that of Lincoln. In fact, the 1864 Democratic Presidential Platform was largely based on citing the Civil War a failure and ceasing hostilities (although George McClellan, the Democratic Presidential candidate, disagreed with this portion of the platform.) Clement Vallandingham, who was offered as McClellan's Secretary of War in the '64 election, was a member of the Copperhead faction of the Democratic Party, who" nominally favored the Union but strongly opposed the war, for which they blamed abolitionists, and they demanded immediate peace and resisted the draft laws. They wanted Lincoln and the Republicans ousted from power, seeing the president as a tyrant who was destroying American republican values with his despotic and arbitrary actions. Some Copperheads tried to persuade Union soldiers to desert. They talked of helping Confederate prisoners of war seize their camps and escape. They sometimes met with Confederate agents and took their money. The Confederacy encouraged their activities whenever possible. "

Senator Obama will no doubt be an interesting candidate; the media certainly loves his biography, and he exudes rock star charisma. And the War on Iraq is not the American Civil War, either.

But it takes more than residence and political office in the fine state of Illinois to travel in the footsteps of Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, as a wartime commander in chief, maintained a vision of final victory in the War between the States, and did not waiver from his ultimate goal of securing victory, although he radically adjusted his policies (and his generals) as the war raged. There was little talk of defeat or failure in Lincoln's orations, only the necessity for victory, and afterwards, healing.


And Lincoln was a Republican, in any case.

UPDATE: This post was inspired by none other than the great Gateway Pundit, who commented on Sen Obama''s announcement HERE.

The Message on the War

From the AP:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gen. David Petraeus took charge of U.S. forces in Iraq on Saturday, becoming the third commander in the war and declaring the American task now was to help Iraqis "gain the time they need to save their country."

Petraeus, who was only confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 26, assumed four-star general status in conjunction with taking over command. "The stakes are very high. The way ahead will be hard, and there undoubtedly will be many tough days. But as I recently told members of the U.S. Senate, hard is not hopeless," said Petraeus, as he took command from 58-year-old Gen. George Casey.

He has his work cut out for him, both in "the field" as well as in the infosphere, where he has to contend not only with the enemy, but with a cacophony of voices and messages that do little to enhance his success, or make the tasks he faces any less difficult.

Senator Kerry made strong statements this weekend criticizing the increase in troops in Iraq:

"Another 21,000 troops sent into Iraq, with no visible end or strategy, ignores the best advice from our own generals and isn't the best way to keep faith with the courage and commitment of our soldiers," the Massachusetts Democrat said in his party's weekly radio address. . . The Congress should tell President Bush to end this open-ended commitment of American troops," Kerry said. "The United States must get tough with Iraqi politicians — pressure them to meet tough benchmarks. ... Congress must push this administration to find not just a new way forward in Iraq, but the right way forward."


Besides providing vision for Soldiers on the battlefield, General Petraeus (as well as CENTCOM) must get the narrative on Iraq beyond the latest car bomb, past the latest casualty statistic. There are bloggers providing some excellent information on current operations in OIF, and the two commands would be wise to pattern their efforts to "get the message out" along their lines.

  • Bill Roggio has been providing excellent operational reports on OIF for some time now. His Baghdad Order of Battle post over at Fourth Rail is the kind of information that CENTCOM should be driving into the media.
  • Omar at Iraq the Model describes what it is like to live in Baghdad during the heightened security crackdown in this post. Additionally I found a link at ITM to this post here, too, which I thought was worth reading for anyone who would look upon the state of the world and believe there is no such thing as hope.
  • And here is a "user level" blog entry of a Soldier conducting operations in Baghdad.
I live in a military town, most of my neighbors are deployed to the CENTCOM AOR, and I never read anything in my paper like the aforementioned links. I hope, along with everything else that General Petraeus must do, he finds time to establish a ubiquitous presence in the infosphere.

Iran in Iraq, and Back to Anna: Upping the Ante in Complexity




Anna Nicole Smith's death is big news.Why is that, you may ask? We'll get to that. But let us focus elsewhere for a few moments first.

From this morning's
New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.

The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete.

In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.

The focus of American concern is known as an “explosively formed penetrator,” a particularly deadly type of roadside bomb being used by Shiite groups in attacks on American troops in Iraq. Attacks using the device have doubled in the past year, and have prompted increasing concern among military officers. In the last three months of 2006, attacks using the weapons accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq, though less than a quarter of the total, military officials say.

ABC News reported on the sophistication and Iranian origins of these devices in 2005 in this report here.

MSNBC featured a report on EFP's lethality late last year, which can be found here.

EFPs are basically shape charges, which channel the power of an IED explosive into a narrow cone of energy to punch through armored vehicles and wreak havok inside. Most of the intelligence reports cited in the news stories relate that the components are too sophisticated to be fabricated within Iraq, and instead come from Iranian machine shops and factories.

Additionally, the Washington Post had a story today detailing Iran's efforts seize Al Qawda terrorists travelling through Iran en route to Iraq:

Last week, the CIA sent an urgent report to President Bush's National Security Council: Iranian authorities had arrested two al-Qaeda operatives traveling through Iran on their way from Pakistan to Iraq. The suspects were caught along a well-worn, if little-noticed, route for militants determined to fight U.S. troops on Iraqi soil, according to a senior intelligence official.

The arrests were presented to Bush's senior policy advisers as evidence that Iran appears committed to stopping al-Qaeda foot traffic across its borders, the intelligence official said. That assessment comes at a time when the Bush administration, in an effort to push for further U.N. sanctions on the Islamic republic, is preparing to publicly accuse Tehran of cooperating with and harboring al-Qaeda suspects.


Meamwhile, skepticism about Iranian involvement in Iraq resonates in the West, especially on the Left:

Pilger suggests another motivating factor for Bush’s new possible war: “As the American disaster in Iraq deepens and domestic and foreign opposition grows, Neocon fanatics such as Vice-President Cheney believe their opportunity to control Iran's oil will pass unless they act no later than the spring.”


or

While the Senate Armed Services Committee debates the faulty intelligence the Bush administration’s used to take us to war against Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is continuing to cite iffy intelligence about Iran and its involvment in Iraq. . . Note that Gates is not talking about Iran's efforts to acquire nukes and he is not talking about the threat Iran poses to Israel. The context of attacking Iran is and will continue to be because of its activities in Iraq. Following up on posts here and here, I again posit that this is because the administration would aim to justify any attack on Iran through the Iraq AUMF. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Joe Biden, just to name a few Democratic leaders, have all vowed their refusal to grant the Bush administration authority to attack Iran.

These declarations are reassuring, but Congress needs to do more. The Democratic leadership needs not to focus on the administration attempting to get separate authority to attack Iran, but to investigate the administration's current efforts to bolster their claims about Iran's involvement in Iraq.



The intersection of foreign policy, military strategy, domestic politics, Sunni/Shia rivalry, and international terroris makes for a complicated weave, does it not? It is no wonder that the government finds itself in a conundrum as it determines its next moves in Iran and Iraq.

And it makes sense that most Americans would choose to ponder the death of Anna Nicole Smith, rather than the unravel the complexity of America's role in the Middle East. It is easy enough to ruminate on the tragic end of a beautiful but troubled woman for everyone involved, whether one is a citizen, a reporter, editor, or the like; most would rather talk about the senselessness of Ms. Smith's passing, and leave the problems we face in the world to someone else.

UPDATES:

The Guardian advances a story that the U.S. will soon be prepared to launch strikes against Iran:

US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.

The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.

Meanwhile, identifying the father of the late Anna Nicole Smith's infant and heir grows more complex, keeping pace with the Iran/Iraq storyline:

Anna Nicole Smith's death became even more bizarre than her life yesterday as a series of bombshell revelations uncovered an ever-growing web of sexual intrigue - including the startling claim that her late billionaire husband may be the father of her infant daughter.

The stunning disclosure comes in a no-holds-barred manuscript written by her half-sister Donna Hogan obtained exclusively by the Daily News.

Hogan alleges that her sister froze the sperm of 90-year-old J. Howard Marshall years ago, and believes she may have used it to become pregnant.

Stay alert, stay alive, readers!